The Importance of Family Dinners

How often do you pause in the midst of your busy week and sit down to a home-cooked meal? In our fast-paced society, family dinners often fall short of the top priorities list. With kids at sports practices, spouses working late, and the actual task of making dinner at hand, it can be hard to find the motivation for hosting family dinners.But what happens when families don’t eat dinner together?Numerous researchers have studied this topic, and what they’ve found is incredibly supportive of family dinners. According to Dr. Anne Fishel, the co-founder of The Family Dinner Project, eating dinners together has a significantly positive impact on the family. Studies show that the children of these families have higher GPAs and better self-esteem, with lower substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression rates. These family dinners also have the potential to increase vocabulary and conversational abilities in children, while decreasing eating disorders and child obesity. Overall, researchers promote family dinners as great opportunities for connecting and growing as a community, together.So how do you tackle the crazy schedules and tedious dinners so you can enjoy the benefits of a family?

Delegate

Even if you have young kids, some tasks can and should be delegated to other family members, so you don’t have to do as much. Have your kids set the table, do the dishes, or wash the lettuce; anything that gives you one less thing to do. Even if it takes a while to teach them at first, eventually it will pay off, and you’ll be able to watch while they prepare the meal. This also applies to spouses--the more people who chip in, the easier dinner will be. Plus, with everyone working together, dinner preparations can be part of family time too!

Designate

Designate a time for family dinners each week and make sure everyone understands that they are expected to be there, no matter what. Try as best as you can to keep that time designated for dinner too, so that eventually the whole family knows to clear their schedule for weekly dinners. If you’re having difficulties with certain schedules, like with sports teams or work hours, consider a creative solution. Perhaps you have a picnic at a sports event so everyone can be together, or you eat an early breakfast together instead of making dinner. Whatever it is, designate family meals and emphasize the importance of being there. Soon everyone will come to expect family dinner.

Dumb it Down

If you dislike cooking or don’t have time for a big meal, don’t fret! With so many easy recipes available at your fingertips, making a quick dinner is an option. Find a few simple recipes you like and make them your own until you get bored and find time to make some new recipes. For family dinners to be effective, you shouldn’t be stressed in the preparation. So, dumb it down a little and make a simple meal--that way the family will notice whenever you do have time to jazz things up for a meal.

Dominate

If you follow all these tips, then you will dominate at family dinners. The most important aspect to remember, though, is that family meals should be a blast. So, establish the priority, set the date, make the food, and enjoy it as much as you can. Engaging with your family members and laughing over a meal together can quickly become one of your favorite parts of the week.